Director’s Cut Radio: Meet The Parent Of ‘Meet The Parents’


Greg Glienna is the writer, director, and star of the original “Meet the Parents.”

The 2000 hit comedy “Meet the Parents”, starring Robert De Niro and Ben Stiller, was actually a re-make of Glienna’s dark independent comedy filmed in 1992.

Terry Bell: I was curious – do a lot of major motion pictures get their start this way? Do big studios look around the independent film world for inspiration and ideas?

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Greg Glienna: I don’t know if it’s ever happened. I’m sure it has, but I don’t know of any examples of something [else] like this.

TB: But it worked out great for you.

GG: Yes and no. My friend Emo Philips said it was like he knew how the Indians felt selling Manhattan for beads.

TB: Your work is inspired a lot by old silent films – old silent comedies.

GG: I think the best comedy is the comedy that’s visual. You can get a laugh without saying anything. It’s the best humor to me. So I was trying to make a film that was very situational and very visual, but yet had dialogue.

TB: It sounds like it was a rough shoot. That must have – maybe in a strange way – worked to your advantage.

GG: I think so. I mean, we shot it for $30,000. The house [belonged to] a friend of my mom’s. I think it does give the film a nightmare quality, the low-budgetness of it.

TB: It seems like they took a lot of the dark elements out of it in the Ben Stiller picture.

GG: Oh, yeah. What I learned with scripts is that’s the first thing to go in Hollywood.

TB: Really, the dark stuff?

GG: They just don’t like that. They take it out.

TB: Anything that would make an audience uneasy.

GG: Yeah.

TB: The story about how your independent film became a big studio picture is that Steven Soderbergh, the director, saw your film, liked it – and what happened after that?

GG: He called me and said this should be a big studio film – this is very commercial. And they flew my co-writer, Mary Ruth Clark and myself, to New York to work with him for three days, and we worked on the script – his vision of it. Five years went by, it got a different director, and that’s Hollywood. We’d get reports that Jim Carrey was going to star in it, and Steven Spielberg was attached to it. It was a joke with my friends – “Oh, what’s going on with that ‘Meet the Parents’ thing? Who’s involved in it now?”

TB: That could be a movie!

See more of Greg Glienna and the original “Meet the Parents” on Director’s Cut, Friday June 7 at 10 p.m. on Wisconsin Public Television.

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